Giving From A Generous Heart - Exodus 35:20-29
The exodus from Egypt and the receiving of the law at Sinai marked the beginning of the nation of Israel. We should remember Abraham’s descendants had lived in Egypt for many generations, and over time they had become quite familiar with the religious views of their Egyptian overlords. Perhaps for this reason, the first two of the Ten Commandments stressed that God’s people were not to worship like the Egyptians, who believed in many gods. The Israelites were to serve no gods other than the only true God and were not permitted to make idols or other physical representations to him ().
To further assist in the religious reeducation of the people, God commanded Moses to construct a sanctuary, a national center of worship. That large, semiportable tent-complex came to be called the tabernacle (). Significantly, God did not miraculously provide the construction materials for the project. Instead, he called for an offering “from everyone whose heart prompts them to give” (25:2). That challenge takes us to the result.
Old Covenant Giving -
Old Covenant Giving -
Then all the congregation of the Israelites withdrew from the presence of Moses. And they came, everyone whose heart was stirred, and everyone whose spirit was willing, and brought the Lord’s offering to be used for the tent of meeting, and for all its service, and for the sacred vestments. So they came, both men and women; all who were of a willing heart brought brooches and earrings and signet rings and pendants, all sorts of gold objects, everyone bringing an offering of gold to the Lord. And everyone who possessed blue or purple or crimson yarn or fine linen or goats’ hair or tanned rams’ skins or fine leather, brought them. Everyone who could make an offering of silver or bronze brought it as the Lord’s offering; and everyone who possessed acacia wood of any use in the work, brought it. All the skillful women spun with their hands, and brought what they had spun in blue and purple and crimson yarns and fine linen; all the women whose hearts moved them to use their skill spun the goats’ hair. And the leaders brought onyx stones and gems to be set in the ephod and the breastpiece, and spices and oil for the light, and for the anointing oil, and for the fragrant incense. All the Israelite men and women whose hearts made them willing to bring anything for the work that the Lord had commanded by Moses to be done, brought it as a freewill offering to the Lord.
The Old Testament passage of our lesson take us into a whole-community assembly of the Israelites at Mount Sinai, with Moses in charge. He has just finished specifying in some detail the material needed for construction of the tabernacle, its furnishings, and the nature of the garments to be worn by priests. ().
Verses 20 - 22, set the tone for the remainder of the passage. Two points are particularly notable. First, all those who give do so willingly, as they are moved in their hearts. This theme is repeated several times to emphasize not only the personal commitment of individuals but also the spirit of national unity that emerges around the project.
Second, the people’s response addresses all areas of God’s instructions given through Moses regarding construction of the tabernacle proper, its furnishings (for all its service; see 37:1-38:8; etc.), and the priestly sacred garments (see 39:1-31). Another theme that runs throughout this passage is that contributors are not limited to a select group since men and women alike give (compare ). God’s call does not go out only to the wealthy but to everyone. The people respond as their hearts move them.
God has instructed that many of the fixtures and furnishings in the tabernacle are to be gold-plated, while the priestly garments are to be gold-embroidered and covered with precious gems. Such costly materials call attention to the majesty of God and symbolize the significance and the sacred privilege of worship.
How do we decided when “going first class” on church furnishings is worth the extra cost? Considering beauty and functionality; considering life-cycle cost; in handling designated gifts; considering interest on borrowing to do so; considering ministry opportunities lost by doing so.
We may find it surprising that the Israelites, who had left Egypt as slaves, are able to provide the necessary gold and gems primarily through donations of personal jewelry. But God had made a way for the Israelites to give, even before they realized it would be necessary to do so. When God first appeared to Moses in the burning bush to announce delivery of the Israelites from slavery, he also promised to “make the Egyptians favorably disposed toward this people, so that when you leave [Egypt] you will not go empty-handed” ().
Just before the exodus, the Hebrew women were to ask the Egyptian women “for articles of silver and gold and for clothing,” with the result that the Hebrews would “plunder the Egyptians” by escaping with their personal goods ()! The instructions were followed (, ; , ), and the Israelites left Egypt with a substantial amount of gold, silver, and precious gems. Now, having experienced God’s deliverance in crossing the Red Sea, the people realize that this plunder was not for their personal benefit, but for the good of the people as a whole. Thus they willingly contribute as God, through Moses, requests.
Bill and Melinda Gates, one of the wealthiest couples in the world, established the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000. Through it the couple has given billions of their own dollars to, among other things, improve health and well-being in developing countries. The couple knows that not all of their projects will be successful. But they continue to try because they have a heart to “help all people live healthy, productive lives.”
To have a heart that is willing is where true giving begins, as today’s text makes clear. That willingness is founded in realizing that one is involved in something greater than self. Bill and Melinda Gates gives so people have the best chance possible to live their best lives. The Israelites were generous in constructing something that would help everyone in their community lift eyes to God: the tabernacle.
What thing bigger than yourself motivates you to give? Perhaps you know of children whose only daily meal is provided in school. Perhaps you see homeless people living in deplorable conditions. People are often more receptive to the gospel when their physical needs are met. Not having wealth of Bill and Melinda Gates is no excuse for not giving.
The word everyone stresses again the broad participation in the special offering. The precious fabrics mentioned here include various colors of cloth. Such fabrics are an expensive commodity in the ancient world, where all fabrics are hand-dyed. Dyes are produced from natural elements, usually shellfish harvested from the Mediterranean Sea.
On page 70 of our Sunday School books it states that there was something exciting about everyone bringing an element that would become part of their worship of God, they didn’t need a plaque acknowledging their gift; they just wanted the chance to be part of something bigger than themselves. Moses had been clear with the people about what was required to build the Lord’s meeting tent (verses 1-19). His challenge left them “excited and eager to participate” (verse 20). The overall impression is that entire families are involved in responding to the call to give; people at every social level contribute to ensure that God’s house is completed as planned.
Moses had been clear with the people about what was required to build the Lord’s meeting tent (verses 1-19)
What steps can you take to serve God generously with your talents? Regarding talents that don’t seem to have much spiritual applicability; when time is tight; when your church isn’t sure how to make use of your talents.
Verse 29 reveals that the master plan for this tabernacle is not of human origin; it has been commanded by the Lord, to be supervised by Moses. That leader will eventually inspect the finished effort and bless the people for having done as the Lord commanded ().
What steps can we take to remind ourselves that all good things come from God? Regarding helpful Scriptures to memorize; considering prayer that should change; considering how doing so serves as a witness.
New Covenant Giving -
New Covenant Giving -
The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.
2 Corinthians 9:6-8
About 15 centuries pass as we reach the New Testament passage of today’s lesson. The apostle Paul is on his third missionary journey as he pauses to write to his beloved Corinthians. As today’s text opens, he has just reported on the generous financial gifts that the churches of Macedonia have sent to help meet the needs of Christians in Judea/Jerusalem who are suffering severely (). Assuming that the Corinthians will follow suit, Paul plans to send several of his associates to collect their contributions to this worthy cause ().
Assuming that the Corinthians will follow suit, Paul plans to send several of his associates to collect their contributions to this worthy cause (2 Corinthians 8:16-9:5).
In verse 6, Paul uses a commonsense principle from the world of agriculture to illustrate a spiritual truth. The person who sows few seeds will get little yield, whereas those who invest more aggressively will gain a larger and more profitable harvest. Applied to the situation at hand, those who give generously to help others in need will receive a larger reward than those who give less.
This verse is not promising that those who give to others will necessarily receive a financial bonus in return: Paul’s own experiences, which he recounts in some detail in and 12, prove that God does not operate that doubt that our giving will be rewarded, but we must not give with the attitude that God “owes” us something as we tap our foot impatiently waiting for the blessing to show up.
Born to a teenage mother and living in the worst parts of town, basketball superstar LeBron James is grateful for his great fortune. So he is giving back. Drafted into the NBA right out of high school in 2003. LeBron founded the LeBron James Family Foundation in 2004 to help single parents and their children who are in need.
The perennial all-star has also donated $41 million to pay college tuition for 1,100 youth in Ohio. Those who enroll in his “I Promise” program at the University of Akron will be eligible to receive this scholarship. LeBron states that the young people are “the reason I do what I do. These students have big dreams and I’m happy to do everything I can to help them get there.”
LeBron notes that many African-American children can only dream of attending college because of the expense. The more LeBron earns, the more he gives to provide hope to many for a better life. He is sowing into lives generously and will reap generously the joy of helping improve lives.
Verse 7 states that Paul’s counsel to potential givers echoes the attitude of the actual givers who supported the construction of the tabernacle. That giving was from those whose hearts were “willing” (), and Paul insists that rue giving must come from the heart. To give from the heart is the opposite of giving reluctantly or under compulsion.
The last part of verse 7 does not suggest that we earn God’s love by giving, of course. It simply, communicates that God is pleased when his people give out of a genuine desire to do so, rather than from a sense of obligation.
How do you make sure that your attitude about giving honors the Lord? During lean times; during bountiful times.
Verse 8 indirectly addresses the unspoken thought that often lies behind contemplated acts of generosity: “If I give away what I have, what will happen if I myself need it back someday?” Paul’s answer shows that the question is misguided. God owns everything, is concerned about all his people, and abundantly blesses those who follow Him.
In this we can be confident that he will always supply what we need. As Paul writes elsewhere, “My God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (). Our future need might even be met by those whose needs we meet now ().
The challenges of Moses to the Israelites and of Paul to the Corinthians were for different reasons. The Israelites were challenged to give to construct a place of worship by which they, the givers, would benefit. The end result could be seen and touched as a physical reminder of God’s presence. By contrast, the Corinthians were challenged to give to meet the needs of people they had never seen and might never see.
Although the anticipated outcomes of the two giving plans were different, they shared a common factor: willingness - actual on the part of the Israelites: anticipated on the part of the Corinthians. When we find ourselves faced with an important and valid opportunity to give to meet a need, we should examine our attitude before we examine our bank account. A good place to start to test for a proper giving attitude is to recall the ultimate example of having a willingness to give: Jesus.
Heavenly Father, sometimes it’s hard to let go of what we have in order to help others. Teach us to trust you enough to give cheerfully. We pray this in the name of Jesus, who gave his all for us. Amen.